Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church

Devotional Photo Blog - March 2010

Thanks to all the photographers who have kindly accepted my invitation to provide their photos and commentary. Here's the schedule of those whose excellent, thought-provoking and encouraging work you'll be seeing, and when: SUNDAY--Bev Riter; MONDAY--Cheryl Boardman; TUESDAY--Robert Howson; WEDNESDAY--Darren Milam, THURSDAY--Beth-Anne Harvey, and FRIDAY--Bob and Carrol Grady. I handle Sabbath, generally using photos from the point-and-shoot camera I keep on my belt.-- Pastor Maylan Schurch 

NOTE: To see previous photos from this current month, simply scroll down. To see previous months' blogs, click the "Devotional Photo Blog" link on the menu at the left, then select the month you want.

The Legalistic Gas Station Sign
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I tell you, my friends, legalism is still alive in our culture. It seems as though, try as we might, we can't escape those who insist on "works"--as if our deeds really made any difference in the long run.

Take for example this annoying list of rules--laws, I call them--I saw recently posted at a gas station. "Smoking or leaving your engine running may ignite gasoline vapors." Can't these legalistic law-writers realize that we're free? We're not under the law any more. Those old laws don't apply to us.

And "Gasoline is harmful or fatal if swallowed." Can you imagine someone issuing such an arbitrary, guilt-inducing rule? It's a wonder we're not all psycho by now, with such burdensome regulations weighing us down.

And look at the last one: "Keep face away from nozzle and gas tank." I'll have you know that, walking in my new-found liberty, I have the perfect right to get my noze right down there and nuzzle that nozzle if I want to.

(And right about now, if you haven't picked up the irony in my tone, you're starting to suspect me of doing just that--and inhaling deeply all the while!)

You get the point, right? God's Ten Commandment law isn't--as some think--an old legalistic yoke cinched to the necks of the Jews until Jesus died on the cross. Each of those laws, including the Sabbath one, was designed to keep its followers safe from a number of dangers, and free them to discover greater happiness and personal fulfillment. The mistake the Jewish religious officials of Jesus' time made, if course, was to eliminate the Holy Spirit from the equation and try to keep those laws using human willpower.

To me, Hebrews 10:16 gives the perfect explanation of how God has always wanted to internalize His law of love: "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them." Trust me--that's the only way we'll ever keep God's Holy Ten: through His Holy Spirit's indwelling power.

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Lincoln's Sparrow
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Before Jesus sent out the twelve disciples to spread the Good News, He left them a word of encouragement. He let them know that He was interested in even the smallest details which would impact their lives and He did so with the following words, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father....So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Matthew 10:29, 31 NIV) Luke repeats the same illustration and tosses in one for free, stating that five are sold for two pennies. (Luke 12:6) The commercial value placed upon one of these small birds stands in marked contrast to the value placed upon a lost sheep in another of Christ's stories which the shepherd exerted his utmost effort to rescue.

Value has a strange way of changing depending upon time and circumstance however. John James Audubon took a lengthy trip to Labrador hunting for new species for his Birds of America. The Lincoln's Sparrow pictured above was the only new species added. For him, the value of this sparrow undoubtedly had greater worth. Another 19th century American ornithologist, John Townsend, probably better understood the value Christ was speaking of when, on a trip to the Pacific Northwest in 1834 his party became desperate for food. Their supplies ran out and he, along with fellow travelers made up of settlers and missionaries, was forced to eat valuable specimens Townsend had shot for science.

Had you or I been in Christ's position, sending out into a hostile world people we cared about, we might have been tempted to give the old pep talk and assure them that everything would be okay. But Christ's way is always best. Instead, He reminded them of the type of person His, and their Father, was. No magical wand, no carte blanche insurance policy, only the assurance that they had a Father who loved them with an everlasting love.

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The Heavens Proclaim
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 29, 2010

Psalms 97:1 and 6

The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad;
let the distant shores rejoice.
The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
and all the peoples see his glory.

I caught this sunset last year while I was near La Conner in the Skagit Valley. There is a little wildlife viewing spot which is a good place to see a pair of eagles on a nest and it is also where the snow geese congregate around sunset. I walked up a little rise and saw this sight with the sunset reflected in the slough.

Our God really is an awesome God!

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Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 28, 2010

If you've seen a camel, you'll probably agree with me that it looks rather strange! However, after learning more about the camel, we'll see it's a very amazing animal in many ways. You may have seen pictures of some camels with one hump and others with two. Which is it?

Well, there are actually two kinds of camels. An Arabian camel, also known as a dromedary, has one hump. The bactrian camel has two humps. A clever way to remember their names is a side-ways "D" representing one hump stands for dromedary. A side-ways "B" represents two humps for a bactrian camel. Camels are known for their weight-carrying ability and being able to adapt to the hot, dry desert conditions. During the Bible times, camels were used for transportation. (You probably know that cars, busses, trains and airplanes are a very recent invention.) We don't have many camels in the Seattle area; maybe just in a zoo or special farm. I photographed these camels recently in Arizona where it much warmer and dryer than here.

God created camels with special features to live in the hot desert climates. Let's look at some of these features. Each eye is shaded from the noonday sun by a ridge of bone that thick bushy eyebrows sit on. Two rows of long eyelashes, one below the eye and the other under the eye also protect it. In addition, each eye has another very thin eyelid that moves from front to back, something like a car's windshield wiper brushing away sand. During a sand storm, the camel can close these special eyelids to protect its eyes and yet can see through the lid well enough to keep walking. The ears have long hairs and the nostrils (nose) can close to keep out blowing sand.

Notice the camel's feet in the picture just above. The foot of the camel is interesting. It is very broad, having two divisions with a horny tip at the end of each; and underneath is a sort of elastic cushion, like a sponge, on which the camel walks very quietly. The widened feet help keep camels from sinking in the sand. A camel's thick coat reflects sunlight and insulates it from the hot sun and desert sand.

Camels have an amazing ability of efficiently use the resources their environments provide. They can travel several days in hot weather without drinking water. When they do get to water they can drink lots of it - like 30 gallons in 10 minutes! Figure out how much that is! Camels can eat almost anything - plants, meat, fish, bones and leather. They have been known to even eat their owner's tent!

The hump on the camel is fat. When camels are born, they don't have a hump (or humps), but start developing a hump when they start eating solid food. How many pounds did you weigh when you were born? A baby camel weights betwen 66 and 88 pounds when born! Now that is big! In addition to being used for transportation, camels provide milk and meat. Their wool is used for rug making and clothing. The Bible says that John's clothing was a rough coat of camel's hair (Mathew 3:4).

Camels are mentioned many times in the Bible. Genesis 24, starting with verse 10, tells the story of finding a wife for Isaac. Eliezer and other servants took ten of his master's camels on their journey. They had faith that God would take them to a woman who would be a good wife for Isaac. Read this story to find out the woman's name and what she did for the camels. Did she become Isaac's wife?

Even though God made camels so they could live in the desert and go for days without water, I'm glad I'm not a camel, aren't you? Isn't it good that God made us in His image - to look like him and not a camel.

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Persistent Palmprint
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 27, 2010

A little over a week ago I dove momentarily into a thrift store to run my eye over the books, and discovered this magnificently used American Heritage College Dictionary. I don't think I've ever seen a book which has been obviously handled so many times. In fact, I was so moved that I almost bought it, just to honor the person who'd treasured it so much.

I don't know whether this dictionary's owner was a new learner of English, or a stupendously hard-working college student, or a Scrabble or Boggle player, or just someone who liked to browse among words. I have a feeling that I would like to be the owner of that person's mind, because he or she was so persistently willing to reach for this book in order to learn.

You suspect where I'm going with this, right? Of course you do. In the "shake the pastor's hand" line which always forms at the conclusion of our worship services, I always keep an eye out for well-used Bibles, and compliment their owners. Obviously, a brand-new Bible can also say a lot about its user's commitment to study, but whenever I see a manhandled, or womanhandled, older copy of the Scriptures, I always comment on it.

Because just as the above well-rubbed dictionary's user has become incredibly well-prepared to face a world of verbal communication, a confirmed Bible-handler is prepared to face its philosophical and spiritual battles. So let's all do more Bible-gripping in the weeks ahead, okay?

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Calm After the Storm
Photo ©2010 by Bob Grady
Commentary ©2010 by Carrol Grady
Friday, March 26, 2010

"The disciples woke him and said to him, 'Teacher, don't you care if we drown?' He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, 'Quiet! Be still!' Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, 'Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?'"

Sirens went off outside our window at 6:00 am on our first Sabbath morning on the island of Maui. Bob and I looked at each other groggily and muttered, "That sounds like the tsunami sirens. Why are they testing so early in the morning?" Then my sister-in-law, who doesn't swim and is terrified of water, came out of the bathroom, white and shaking like a leaf. Her son had called from Florida while she was in the shower to tell her a tsunami warning had been issued for the Hawaiian Islands. That woke us up! Although we knew that the house where we were staying was high enough to be safe from even a 50-foot tidal wave, JoAnn wasn't convinced until we turned on the TV and listened to the reports. Of course, it turned out to be a non-event, but we were all thankful for God's protection. Since cars were urged to stay off the roads, we spent a quiet and peaceful Sabbath at home.

It's so easy when we're in the midst of one of life's storms to remember that God has everything under control, even if we can't see any good outcome. Let this picture of peace and calm sink into your mind, to be recalled when you are in the storm.

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Photo and Commentary ©2010 by
Beth-Anne Harvey
Thursday, March 25, 2010

"While sitting on the bank of a river one day, I picked up a solid round stone from the water and broke it open. It was perfectly dry in spite of the fact that it had been immersed in water for centuries. The same is true of many people in the Western world. For centuries they have been surrounded by Christianity; they live immersed in the waters of its benefits. And yet it has not penetrated their hearts; they do not love it. The fault is not in Christianity, but in men's hearts, which have been hardened..."

The author of this quote, Sadhu Sundar Singh, was born in 1889 into a devout Hindu Sikh family. From a very young age, Sundar dedicated his life to the pursuit of a deeper spirituality earnestly seeking for peace, for truth and for wisdom. He willingly forsook the pleasures of the world and immersed himself in the learning and practicing of the Hindu faith. However, at the age of 14, Sundar experienced a crisis of faith which caused him to enter into a deep depression and to question the existence of God. Although he had immersed himself in his beliefs and had sought to surrender his whole self to the penetration of their ideas, because the teachings were not flowing from the fountain of Life and Truth, Sundar's thirst could not be quenched.

Jesus said, "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me...whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life....If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."
Having endured his depression for several days, late one evening Sundar decided that if God existed He would need to reveal Himself and if this did not occur, Sundar would end his life. For seven hours he prayed. "O God, if there is a God, reveal thyself to me tonight." In response, the Lord gave Sundar a vision of Jesus Christ that resulted not only in the securing of his eternal life, but also in the dedication of his earthly one as a lifelong missionary to India and Tibet.

For about 30 seconds, Sundar was directly immersed in the water flowing from the fountain of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Thirty seconds. It doesn't seem like very long, but when you compare his experience to that of the Apostle Paul on his way to Damascus, you realize that for some people the journey can change in a blink of an eye. In one moment, the road turns from being all about me and what I'm doing here to all about Someone else and where you're going.

Have you been immersed? For how long?

"I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean.... I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in will be my people, and I will be your God."

"My prayer is not that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your Word is truth. As You sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in me and I am in You. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent me."

O God, reveal yourself to us today. Let the living water from your Word flow through our hearts of flesh that the world may know that You alone are God, that You sent your Son Jesus Christ to die so that all who come to You through Him may live.

Scripture references from John 14:6, 4:14, 7:37-38, 17:15-21; Ezekiel 36:25-28

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Give From The Heart
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Just about every week, when I was teaching in the Children's Primary class--since then I've I graduated to Juniors :)--and it was time for offering to be collected, I would ask the kids why we give money to God? I would ask if God needed our money and the kids would answer in a chorus - "No". They were right. In fact God doesn't need any money from us at all. That said He LOVES to see us give. He NEEDS us to WANT to give.

Don't get me wrong, when I say He wants, needs and loves to see us give -- I'm not just talking about money. When you stop and think about how you earned your money, your paycheck, your allowance - you know where that money came from - God. God provides to us each and everyday, in hundreds of ways. I presume there are thousands, if not more, of times we were blessed and had no idea. God is good.

The above picture is in Kenya, Africa. One of the reasons I love this picture is it reminds me of what I have.....and what this child doesn't. Then I think of something this little girl has that I (most likely, WE, collectively) forget about -- happiness. She reminds me of how simple life can be and still be very fulfilling. Speaking of being blessed, my family and I have had an opportunity to go and share God's love twice to these amazing people, in the Masai Mara. They truly are part of the family of God. They love to sing and learn about God. It's amazing what you GET, when you Give. Again, it's not always money that God needs/wants us to give.

In 2 Corinthians 9:7 it says, "So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver."

The next time you are thinking about offering or tithe, or maybe you are ready to go and serve for Him (far away or right here at home) think of how God has blessed you. Think of this little girl.....and the things we have that she doesn't and then think of that beautiful smile, the heart of gold and the loving God that provides for us each and everyday -- I know I do.

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Common Redpoll
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It would be pushing the credibility of science to suggest certain species possess innate personality characteristics. On the other hand it is equally as obvious why we as humans seem to have a penchant for doing so. Charlie, the Basset Hound, is sadness personified. Even when his master returns home to greet him with a can of his favorite evening snack, Charlie still has gloom inscribed on his face. He can't help it, he's a Basset Hound. Having acknowledged the inaccuracy of this practice, let's look at the opposite end of the spectrum of human emotions and a species that embodies those qualities.

We all are aware of the benefits of being positive, of seeing the glass half full instead of bemoaning that which is missing. While we may recognize this, we are also adept at coming up with reasons why it just doesn't fit our particular set of circumstances. Our suggestion for the poster child of optimism is the Common Redpoll. So your old furnace finally broke down? The Redpoll spends most of its life not far from where the igloo got its name. Your employer opted to transfer you to some unearthly spot just after you paid closing costs for a new house? The Redpoll periodically abandons its northerly abode in what are known as eruptive migrations and heads south, usually to where it's raining instead of snowing. You had dreams of being an offensive lineman for the NFL, but you were given the physique that at best qualified you as a backup candidate for water boy of the JV squad? In spite of its diminutive size, the Redpoll always seems full of life and determined to show that to the world.

If birds could choose a favorite text, Redpolls might select II Corinthians 4:17, 18. Paul, too, had to face some icy conditions, but notice his reaction. "These troubles and sufferings of ours are, after all, quite small and won't last very long. Yet this short time of distress will result in God's richest blessing upon us forever and ever! So we do not look at that we can see right now, the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys in heaven which we have not yet seen. The troubles will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever." (Living Bible) Too bad Paul didn't have Redpolls in his area. I think he would have liked them.

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Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 22, 2010

This is a homemade stop sign I saw in Guyana (the official sign also has a red circle around the sign and the word STOP is in black letters). To those of us from Canada or the United States, it is quite confusing as the triangle here is associated with the yellow and black yield sign and the stop sign here is a red octagon with white letters. (I'm sure anyone coming here from Guyana would be equally confused with the signs here!)

Learning the local traffic rules is a basic thing to do when traveling in a foreign country. One of the most important things is learning what side of the road to drive on! People have been killed when drivers go on autopilot and forget which side of the road they are supposed to be driving on and turn the wrong way into oncoming traffic.

It is also very important to know what the signs mean because pedestrians and other drivers have certain expectations based on the rules of the road.

Fortunately, as Christians, we are not left trying to figure out what signs apply to us and how they might differ from culture to culture. The Bible is very clear on the basic "rules of the road" as we go through our life's journey. The ten commandments (Exodus 20: 3-17) were important enough for God to write them with His finger on stone.

In the New Testament, where Jesus is asked what is the greatest commandment in the Law, Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 22:36-40

This nicely summarizes the ten. We will obey the first four in order to honor God and we will obey the last six in order to honor other people.

Obeying the ten commandments (or the traffic signs on the road) will lead to healthier, happier and safer trips - whether we are traveling through life or going to the grocery store.

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Animals of the Bible--2
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sabbath and Sunday, March 20 & 21, 2010


Have you seen a donkey before? Sometimes they are called an ass, or in the western part of the United States they are sometimes called a burro. My photo shows minature donkeys which are native to the Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia. In fact, donkeys are the only method of transportation on one of the islands off the coast of Sicily! Since donkeys often live where it's hot, their long ears help cool their blood and they just might pick up more distant sounds. Minature donkeys are vey gentle and friendly with people, forming close attachments to other donkeys and to their owners. These donkeys eat hay, oats, carrots and apples.

Can you think of a story in the Bible that mentions a donkey or ass? Jesus was often described as riding on a donkey. In Mark 11, Jesus is described as riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, called a colt, a few days before His death. Abraham had sheep, oxen, camels and asses. Job had five hundred asses. The Lord opened the mouth of a donkey and it spoke to Balaam because he was riding to a place God did not want him to go. You can read the story in Numbers 22, starting with verse 22. Mary, the mother of Jesus was often portrayed as riding a donkey. Can you find other places in the Bible that mention a donkey or an ass? In Bible times, ownership of many donkeys was a sign of God's blessing. The Bible often specifies whether a person rode donkeys, since this was used to indicate a person's wealth.

Did you notice the mark on the donkey's shoulders and back? When looking down on a this mark, one can see the shape of a cross. Legend has it that this cross comes from the shadow of Christ's crucifixion, placing the donkey at the foot of the Cross. Did you know that Jesus died on the cross to save you?

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Don't Go Bland In Order to Blend!
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 19, 2010

One Friday in early February Shelley and I stopped at a farmer's market type of store for produce. While she shopped, I gassed up the car at a station at the other corner of the parking lot--and was startled to see this warning cone.

Let's revisit that phrase. "Cone" is correct--but warning? I don't know what happened, but this cone has lost 99.9 % of its distinctive color, and is so bland that it almost blends into the pavement. Somebody inside the gas station had positioned it to issue some kind of alert, but even though that cone is standing where it's supposed to, it's difficult to spot, especially if you're also keeping your eyes peeled for other cars while wrestling with the wheel of your own ton-and-a-half of motorized metal.

I don't know whether, if He lived and preached in our day, Jesus would have said, "Ye are My traffic cones," or "Ye are the traffic cone of the world--let your fluorescent paint so shine . . . ." But down through the centuries He has called Christians not only to be reflectors of His love, but also to communicate a warning (most often by their example, but when appropriate by their words) about the end of the world.

"Fear God," shouts an angel in Revelation 14:7, "and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come!" Let's study Jesus' life, and the way He approached different people according to their different personalities, as we let Him use us as "lights" -- and traffic cones -- in our crumbling world.

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I Will Lift My Eyes
Photo and Commentary ©2010 by Beth-Anne Harvey
My friend at Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park, Washington - October 2009.
Thursday, March 18, 2010

Four months ago, a close friend of mine died. To me, that means he went to sleep in the Lord. He's not really dead, but he's also not alive - just sleeping. The problem is I can't wake him up - only God can do that. And I know that won't happen for a while yet, so I've been missing his friendship.

My friend loved Jesus very much and we enjoyed talking about the Lord on our many journeys across the mountains and valleys and waterways of our beautiful Pacific Northwest. I'll always remember my friend as an inspiration to others; a bright shining light for Jesus. No matter what his struggles were, he was always smiling, always kind, always grateful for the good things God had given to him, always counting his blessings, and always looking forward to seeing Jesus.

When we lose someone close to us, we may find it difficult to keep moving forward; to put a smile on our face and shine our light before men. It takes time to heal and time to regroup; time to remember to claim the promises of God and time to surrender to Him our pain. Jesus said that this road that we travel as Christians won't always be smooth, it won't always be flat or free from obstacles. He also said that when the way seems dark, we should remember that He is our Light and He is our Way. He will never leave us or forsake us and He knows what we're going through.

Psalm 121 in the Bible is described as "A song of ascents." The words in the Psalm make me think about how my journey in this life has sometimes felt like the climbing of a mountain. Sometimes my road has been rough; sometimes clouds have moved in to hide the sun; and sometimes rocks have threatened to trip me on my way. But just like when you finally reach the mountain's summit and take in the incredible view, each time I have remembered to call on Jesus, He has lifted me up and enabled me to see all that He has done for me. Every obstacle I have overcome has been like a stair that Jesus has helped me to reach, causing me to ascend higher and higher and bringing me one step closer to heaven.

I'm looking forward to reaching heaven; to going home and seeing my friends again, and to being with my one very special Friend for all eternity, Jesus. I just need to keep my eyes fixed on Him.

I will lift up my eyes to the hills; where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip. He who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you. The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm. He will watch over your life.
The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

Scripture references from Psalms 146:1-4; Matthew 28:20; Luke 8:49-56; John 8:12, 14:1-7; 16:33; 1st Thessalonians 4:14-18; Hebrews 12:1-2, 13:5-6

To listen to a song version of Psalm 121, visit this web site and click the Play Button (>) next to the song title, "He Is Ever Over Me."

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At The Foot of The Cross
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A couple weeks ago two friends of ours, Adam and Elizabeth, were married. As I captured this image, it made me feel great, because not only were they sharing with us one of their happiest days in their lives, but they were sharing it with God as well. In fact they were saying their vows, literally, at the foot of the cross.

In Ephesians we read how a husband and wife are to treat each other, "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her...".

We can read this text in three ways. See which one you agree with:

#1. This is a great way to view a marriage and the way God wants us to treat our spouses. It's a true partnership as we each have our strengths and weaknesses. We complement each other, building a stronger union.

#2. God loves US (His followers) so much He wanted to describe His love and His passion toward us, in way we would be able to understand.

#3. 1 & 2. (It was kind of a trick question - sorry).

Whether you got the "correct" answer, the results are the same. Not only does God love us more than anything, as was very apparent when He sent His only Son to save us from our own sins, but most importantly His love is a gift and all we have to do is accept it. With that in mind, I have one question for you - Do you take God as your one and only, personal Savior?......I do.

Congratulations, Liz and Adam.

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Timber Wolf
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Some have objected to using objects of nature for the purpose of teaching moral lessons applicable to mankind. Their reasons generally follow two lines of thought. The first of these suggests that since nature is in and of itself amoral, it would be inappropriate to subject it to our concept of ethical reasoning. However, if we elect to use this tactic, we find ourselves in good company with biblical writers who also employed this approach including David, Solomon, numerous Old Testament prophets, and Christ Himself. Even ancient secular writers believed this was an appropriate way to convey "spiritual" truths.

The second objection takes a different line of attack. Instead of approaching the subject from the side of nature, they do so from the temperament of man himself. They suggest that since nature is without moral equivalency, when we try to speak of such, we simply bring to it our own value system, subjecting the defenseless subject to our self-imposed quality traits. This objection has at least some plausibility.

But consider if you will the Timber Wolf seen above, photographed at a local zoo, a setting less than ideal for conveying truths about this magnificent animal and its behavior. In truth, I have only observed this creature once in the wild, and then only briefly before it silently slipped into the forest. While captivity limits my understanding, no one can deny the growth of appreciation and perception such an encounter, even though it is artificial, brings. We come with a discernment that has been marred by sin, just as nature itself has been disfigured. Rather than denying this, let us acknowledge it and be grateful for another vehicle which can help us broaden our understanding. Is nature a perfect way to see the face of God? No. That will have to wait until the lion lies down with the lamb and our own eyesight will have been perfected as well.

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Intricate Beauty
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 15, 2010

I saw this monarch butterfly when I was in Guyana. It's pretty cool to be able to see butterflies in January when you live in the Pacific Northwest. The monarch does occur in this area but it's not very common.

I find butterflies fascinating. Their whole life cycle is just so amazing through the different stages - egg, caterpillar, pupa and adult. (Apparently this whole process can take about a month in a monarch.)

Then there are all the species (thought to be more than 15,000 in the world, approximately 800 in North America and up to 170 in Oregon and Washington alone) with all the varying sizes, shapes, colors and patterns. It all speaks of a Master Designer.

The North American monarchs are probably most noted for their mass migrations (up to 2500 miles) in the fall and spring. How can such a little seemingly fragile creature manage to do that?

Everything was created through him;
nothing-not one thing!-
came into being without him.
John 1:3 (The Message)

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Animals of the Bible--1
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, May 14, 2010


I'm sure you've seen sheep, but have you seen "streaked and spotted" sheep? Or, sheep with four to six horns? The Jacob Four-Horned Sheep in my photo have beautiful spotted fleece and striking horns. The rams (males) have from four to six horns. The ewes (females) can have several or no horns. Notice the little lambs in the photo below even have horns!

This breed dates back to biblical times when the Jewish patriarch, Jacob, asked his father-in-law, Laban for all the streaked and spotted sheep. You can read the story in Genesis 30:25-43.

Sheep are mentioned several times in the Bible. Abel was a "keeper of sheep." Job had seven thousand, which God allowed to be taken from him, but later gave him twice as many. When Solomon's temple was dedicated, he offered a hundred and twenty thousand sheep as a sacrifice. (That's a lot of sheep!) David often spoke of his shepherd life after he became king. Psalms 23 is about "The Lord is my shepherd." Shepherds were watching their flocks by night when the bright angels appeared to tell them that a Savior, Jesus was born. In John 10:7, Jesus said "I am the door of the sheep."

Sheep are so timid and gentle that they need protected. Shepherds protect their sheep. Also, specially-trained dogs protect them. Jesus is our Shepherd to help protect us and guide us through life. Have you given your heart to Jesus?

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Rotten to the Core
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 13, 2010

One day last week as Shelley was fixing our breakfast fruit, she emitted a wail of annoyance: "Oh no!"

When I wandered out to the kitchen to discover what the calamity was all about, she showed me these two apple-halves. Usually my wife is an expert fruit-picker-outer, able to consistently bring home apples that literally taste better than candy. But this time the lovely exterior on the right half, which normally signals lusciousness within, had played her false. (A quick note: These truly are two parts of the same apple. The left half looks larger because of the distortion due to the telephoto lens I was using.)

Nobody knows what genus and species of fruit tantalized Eve, but apple or not, it must have looked (and sounded, according to the serpent's infomercial) absolutely irresistible. Yet whether or not the fruit contained actual toxins, its true poison lay in the God-distrust of those who plucked and ate it.

You don't need me to tell you that the serpent still proffers apples today:

"God said not to commit adultery? Come on! She's your soul-mate!"

"God said not to abuse His name? If the provocation's severe enough, you deserve to express yourself freely--and even profanely!"

"God said ‘No other gods'? But surely the Buddha's ideas make more sense!"

"God said, ‘Remember the Sabbath day'? But you can't spare your precious Saturdays, can you?"

Don't bite.

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Two Chocolate Bibles!
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 12, 2010

I couldn't resist a chuckle at an advertising photo in the most recent Lifeway Christian Stores catalog. Not content with merely upholstering their Bibles in colors, whichever company sponsored the above Scriptures decided to add food (is chocolate a food?) to the appeal. "Fudge/Espresso," says the label on the left in case you can't read it, and "Beige/Chocolate" on the right. I found myself wondering if the publishers imprinted scratch-and-sniff aromas on the covers as well.

I guess this sort of ploy is harmless, and may even be a good thing if it causes chocolate-addicts' twitching fingers to reach obsessively toward the Word of God. Because there's no doubt, the Bible itself considers Heaven's communications sweet:

. . . The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Psalm 19:10 NKJV

How sweet are Your words to my taste,
Sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Psalm 119:103

How's your spiritual "sweet tooth"? Have you developed the daily habit of reading the Bible? Why not dive into our online Bible Reading Plan, starting today? Click here for instructions.

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Don't Forget to Look Back
Photo and Commentary ©2010 by Beth-Anne Harvey
Thursday, March 11, 2010

One of my favorite scriptures in the Bible is found in the book of Proverbs:

Trust in the LORD with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
In all of your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.

God says we should trust Him without holding anything back. We should surrender all to Him without refusing on any point. We are to acknowledge His unfailing wisdom in every matter, and to keep moving forward believing that He is leading the way. While I love the idea that great peace and assurance can be mine when I claim God's promises, I sometimes fail to exercise the faith needed to receive these gifts.

There are times when I arrive at a place or find myself in a situation where all seems like darkness to me and I'm not sure if it was God who led me there. The choices to make, the direction to go in don't seem quite so obvious or as I was expecting. Then, fears creep in, I start to doubt His leading, and I get confused.

Maybe I walked here by myself? Maybe I was tricked onto this path? What should I do now? Should I just stand here and wait for Him to come carry me out? Should I keep moving forward? What happens if I take one step forward and fall into a huge sinkhole - then what will I do? Maybe I should turn around and backtrack to the last place I remember seeing Him. When was that? This morning? Last night? Hmmmm...

We have nothing to fear for the future, except if we forget how God has led us in our past.

Are you caught in a situation where you're not sure which direction to take? Take a moment to pray. Ask God to remind you of how He has led you in your past. Remember the love He has shown you; think about how His unfailing wisdom has brought you to places you wouldn't have sought on your own; consider how His faithfulness has given you strength and inspiration. If after talking with the Lord you still feel surrounded by darkness, sing a song of praise and hope. The devil hates it when we remember God and dislikes it even more when we praise Him.

When I get to feeling this way, I find persistent prayer and songs of hope help to rekindle my faith and give me courage to move forward. A favorite of mine is the beautiful contemporary Christian song God Will Make a Way written by Don Moen. The song encourages us to trust that God is making a way for us, even when everything we can see, hear, or feel may be trying to tell us otherwise.

By a roadway in the wilderness, He'll lead me
And rivers in the desert will I see
Heaven and earth will fade, but His Word will still remain
He will do something new today

God will make a way, where there seems to be no way
He works in ways we cannot see, He will make a way for me
He will be my guide, hold me closely to His side
With love and strength for each new day
He will make a way, He will make a way

God is standing next to you. He's just about to take the next step. He's reaching out His hand to you. Take hold of Him, move forward, and don't forget to look back.

Scripture references from Proverbs 3:5-6
Listen to the song on YouTube

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God's Tiny Dots
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Just recently I watched a DVD presentation on the Universe (thanks, Zach). The discussion was on our solar system, from a creationist view point. As I watched it, I couldn't help but think how amazing God's creations are. The DVD discussed the fact that Evolutionist aren't able to explain why some stars burn at a faster rate, that would explain their "billions of years" theory. Of course that we know the explanation - they are incorrect. The stars, moons, suns, planets and all the creatures on Earth wasn't created from a speck of dust colliding with another....BANG....and the process couldn't. No, in Genesis 1:1, we can read exactly how it all got started, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was[a] on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters."

The above image was captured 1 degree south of the equator, over looking the Masai Mara, in Kenya. As you can imagine, you get out far enough and the lights of cities start to disappear, thus giving way to the beautiful creations of God -- tiny dots. Of course these "tiny dots" aren't tiny at all, in fact they are huge in comparison to our planet.

From anywhere on our small planet you can look up at the nights sky and see how tiny we are and how, almost, insignificant we are. Yet God doesn't view us this way at all. On the contrary, God knows every hair on our head, every feather on a birds wing. This only proves how amazingly important we are to Him and how much He loves us.

The next time you find yourself staring at the light show above, know how important you are to God and what He has done for you.

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Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Should you awake early some Sunday morning, early at least for a Sunday, and glance out your window and see the scene pictured above, what would be your first thoughts? I won't confess what mine were initially, but they did involve my students. The view from my window wasn't exactly what you see pictured here, it actually involved a great deal more white, gracefully but limply hanging from surrounding trees and shrubs, from the roof line, and other architectural features.

The deed had apparently been done the night before in muffled silence while we, the victims, slept on in blissful ignorance. Upon counting the now empty cardboard rounds, it was apparent that some drugstore, or based upon their number, Costco, had made a sizeable contribution towards the artistic endeavor. The dampness of the morning also insured a major investment of time would be needed for the recovery effort.

So why weren't we terribly upset? I think it had to do with placement of the TP on the lawn, something not initially seen. While I have no way of knowing this for sure, I'm guessing it was one of the last things that was done under the cloak of darkness. It said something about the spirit of the criminals involved. This in turn made the cleanup, while not exactly fun, at least something that could be done with a hidden smile. It also makes me wonder whether Solomon had his palace TPed the night before he wrote Proverbs 10:12: "Love covers a multitude of sins." If so, he must have had something written on his lawn as well.

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Light of the World
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 8, 2010

I recently went to go and see another new (to me) lighthouse. This picture is of Admiralty Head Lighthouse which is located in Fort Casey State Park on Whidbey Island. Fort Casey is quite interesting with great views of Admiralty Inlet and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The deer in the park are quite tame and the park is also great for kite flying.

Just like the function of a lighthouse is to help ships navigate at night, Jesus is the light we need to look at to navigate in this world of darkness. John 12:44-46 (Message) states: "Jesus summed it all up when he cried out, "Whoever believes in me, believes not just in me but in the One who sent me. Whoever looks at me is looking, in fact, at the One who sent me. I am Light that has come into the world so that all who believe in me won't have to stay any longer in the dark."

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What Is It? (Part 3)
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 7, 2010


Do you know the name of the animal in my photo? Yes, it's in the cat family. It's most often called a cougar. It's also known as a puma, mountain lion, mountain cat or panther. In fact, it holds the Guinness record for the animal with the highest number of names - 40 in English alone! You probably watched some of the Olympic Winter Games. Did you know the cougar is also a record holder? It can jump higher than any other mammal. It can leap over 20 feet vertically from a stationary position. This athletic cat also holds the record for the greatest jump in a downward direction - 60 feet!

Cougars are the largest member of the cat family in the U. S. They usually live in dense underbrush and in rocky areas, but sometimes live in open areas. They claim a territory for themselves, often up to 100 miles. Kittens stay with their mothers for two years. They are lone hunters and are most active at dawn and dusk. They ambush other animals, feeding mostly on deer and other mammals, but also eat fruit, vegetables and insects.

Even though many Olympic athletes are excellent at jumping, the cougar has them beat! Thanks to God, our Creator, for making animals with unique capabilities!

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The Cheerio's Tale
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 6, 2010

A week ago after the congregation had left our sanctuary, I saw this little heartwarming scene between a couple of the back pews. Every time I see a Cheerio on the carpet, it tells me a story.

"Before I bounced down on this carpet," the Cheerio says, "I belonged to a loving family with small children. With kids that age, it would have been easiest for Mom and Dad just to keep them home Saturday mornings and turn on the cartoons and let the tube entertain them. But instead, she dressed up her children and brought them to church.

"First they spent time in the Beginners' Sabbath School class, singing songs about Jesus and His love. And then, rather than going back home, Mom brought the kids up to the sanctuary so they could all worship together as a family. And when they got a little fussy, she fed them Cheerios. She's going through all this trouble partly because Jesus said to let the children come to Him, and partly because she loves her kids and wants to spend a joyful eternity with them."

So Moms and Dads, don't worry about the occasional dropped Cheerio in our sanctuary. Your Savior--the same Savior who made tight-jawed comments about millstones around the necks of people who prevent kids from coming to Him--looks on those Cheerios and thanks you.

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Choose Your Favorite Model
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 5, 2010


Just at the moment when you think you've seen everything, a total shocker sometimes shows up in your path. This past Sunday Shelley and I were shopping at a big warehouse store not too far from the Southcenter area, and I was thunderstruck to suddenly come upon this display of casket styles. I think what jolted me was that I'd been wandering through aisles and aisles of products which promised to help me live life more comfortably and excitingly and deliciously, and all suddenly this little cluster of casket-corners blew the chill of death in my direction.

Having performed many funerals in my nearly three decades of ministry, I've seen a lot of caskets, and these three look very adequate. According to the white cards, each costs $799, and the customer can choose from the "Mother" model (the top one), the "Our Lady of Guadalupe" (the black one, with the picture of the Our Lady on the corner next to the handle), and a third model, whose name--even by zooming up my higher-resolution copy of this picture--I can't quite make out, but which looks like "Morgan."

After the shock of seeing caskets among the cameras and computers and camping gear had worn off a bit, I said to myself, Is this tasteless? Maybe not. Maybe we box-store customers have gotten too much into the habit of insulating ourselves from one of the chief truths about life on this plagued planet--that it must eventually end. And if this warehouse store reality-check leads us to the One who can blast these caskets open and welcome us to a deathless eternal morning, that's good. Because it won't happen for everyone, just to those who are ready.

What about you? Are you ready for what lies beyond? To learn how to prepare, click here.

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Piercing the Darkness
Photo and Commentary ©2010 by Beth-Anne Harvey
Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Bible says that Jesus Christ is our Light and our Rock. He is the One whose truth and goodness reveals the way in which we should walk, and it His strength and faithfulness that we cling to when we can walk no further. A sincere Christian once wrote:

The very time to exercise faith is when you feel destitute of the Spirit. When thick clouds of darkness seem to hover over your mind, that is the time to let living faith pierce the darkness and scatter the clouds...You may not feel today the peace and joy that you felt yesterday; but you should by faith grasp the hand of Christ, and trust Him as fully in the darkness as in the light.

The favorite Christian hymn Shelter in the Time of Storm also echoes this theme:

The Lord's our Rock, in Him we hide, a Shelter in the time of storm;
Secure whatever may be tide, a Shelter in the time of storm.
A shade by day, defense by night, a Shelter in the time of storm;
No fears alarm, no foes affright, a Shelter in the time of storm.
The raging floods may round us beat, a Shelter in the time of storm;
We find in God a safe retreat, a Shelter in the time of storm.
O Rock divine, O Refuge dear, our Shelter in the time of storm;
Be Thou our Helper, ever near, our Shelter in the time of storm.

Mighty Rock in a weary land, cooling shade on the burning sand,
Faithful Guide for the pilgrim band - our Shelter in the time of storm.

May the love of Jesus reign in your heart today, to pierce the darkness and scatter the storm, to give you a resting place of peace and hope.

Scripture references from John 8:12, Psalm 18:2, Exodus 34:6

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Power of God
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A few weeks ago, when taking a hike up to Wallace Falls, all I could think about was how awesome God is. When you think about Him creating the world, all the animals, the plants, everything--including us, it's just incredible. When we near the top of the falls song got "stuck" in my head. It reminds me of all that He does for us and how truly powerful He is:

My God is so great,
so strong and so mighty,
there's nothing my God cannot do.
My God is so great,
so strong and so mighty,
there's nothing my God cannot do.

The mountains are his,
the rivers are his,
the stars are His handiwork, too.
My God is so great,
so strong and so mighty,
there's nothing my God cannot do, for you!

My God is so great,
so strong and so mighty,
there's nothing my God cannot do.
My God is so great,
so strong and so mighty,
there's nothing my God cannot do.

If God can do all these things, what do you need Him to do in your life today?

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Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Do any of you enjoy calling family or friends back East where they are still buried in two plus feet of snow? If so, do you perhaps just let it slip out that the crocus are out or maybe you just saw a flowering cherry in bloom for the first time this season? Well, shame on you!

But then, I've done it too. Wherever you happen to live, after those long months of winter with their shortened days and frigid temperatures, it certainly is nice to see the first signs of spring. One of the things that make the arrival of the crocus so welcome is its unexpectedness. It's not that we don't know it's coming, we've experienced spring before. It's that it launches itself from such unpromising conditions. While much of the soil surrounding it is still showing little signs of life, up out of nothing springs this vibrant patch of color. Isaiah used it in this way in Isaiah 35:1,2: "...The wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy." This is his way of describing the joy of the redeemed, not just because they have been saved, but because after looking at the desert of their own life, they clearly recognize this beauty, this reward, is not something deserved. It's a gift, and in that sense, unexpected.

The other reason the crocus was valued in ancient times was due to its ability to make the commonplace special. It was used as a medicine, a dye, a seasoning, and as an ingredient in perfume in much the same way we might use potpourri today. There were a number of crocus species growing in the hills of Palestine and it was from these that saffron was obtained. The stigma and style were harvested and dried and in this way the yellow saffron was harvested. Song of Solomon 4:13,14 includes it in a list of costly spices along with henna, nard, calamus, cinnamon, and myrrh. Such was the value placed upon his lover.

While your true love today might not appreciate being compared to a jar of Schilling cinnamon, you get the idea. So, next time you walk out of the door and spot a bit of spring in the various shades of crocus, just remember your Aunt Jean back in Duluth, but be kind. It may be two more months till she gets to experience the same color.

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The Lord Keeps You From All Harm
Photo and commentary ©2010 by
Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 1, 2010

It's a Toyota but I don't know what year. This vehicle served as a local taxi at the small mining town where we landed in Guyana. I got to sit inside and felt a bit guilty as there were about six people being tossed around in the back.

The speedometer registered zero the whole time we were racing into town. When we eventually came to our destination, I found out that I had to open my door from the outside. I don't recall seeing any seat belts.

It was somewhat reassuring to see cards with Bible verses hanging from the rear-view mirror. The windshield has the word Revelation painted across the top in red (just to the right of that is a white "L" which stands for learner!) and Psalms 121 painted on the bottom.

I decided that Psalms 121 is a good thing to keep in mind all the time (but especially when you're a passenger in a truck of questionable vintage with an unknown maintenance history and you are tearing down a road in a vehicle you have no control over!).
Psalm 121 is noted to be a song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem. (I figure we're all pilgrims. As the old song says, "This world is not my home; I'm just a passin' through.")

I look up to the mountains-
     does my help come from there?
My help comes from the LORD,
     who made heaven and earth!
He will not let you stumble;
     the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
     never slumbers or sleeps.
The LORD himself watches over you!
The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
     nor the moon at night.
The LORD keeps you from all harm
     and watches over your life.
The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go,
     both now and forever.

May the Lord watch over you and protect you throughout this coming week.

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